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May 1, 2009

Free-Diving Course

I was chilling out by the beach in Blue Wind, trying to get some work done and failing, when I overheard Kester, the Scottish yoga teacher, telling someone about a free-diving course on the island. Immediately interested, I asked him where it was, and a couple of days later I found myself sitting excitedly in a classroom learning the basics of free-diving.

After working on our breathe-up, we headed out on the boat in the afternoon and began diving in deep water. I'd gone down to 12m before on my own, and that was our limit for the day, so I knew I could do it. I dived right to the end of the line, touched the weight at 12m, and swam back up.

The following day was a bit more challenging. Looking down from the surface, I couldn't even see the end of the 20m line, the maximum depth you can swim to on the course, and it still didn't appear when I was swimming down. After a few tries, however, I pulled myself down the rope using my arms and as little oxygen as possible, reached the marker, turned around, and pulled myself back to the surface.

Next, was swimming down next to the rope, which is tougher as it uses up much more oxygen. I kicked my way down to about 17m, clearly saw the weight, and decided to go for it, knowing that if I passed out my instructor would take me to the surface. I hit the 20m mark, but out of air by this time, I turned around, knowing I was risking a blackout and began finning back to the surface. Trying to keep my mind focused and calm I was suddenly hit with cramp in both my thighs, but knew I had to force myself to keep finning through the pain. My Argentinian instructor met me at 10m (most blackouts occur within 7m of the surface), with her big, brown eyes staring at me, and I kept pushing until finally I broke through the surface. Low on oxygen, with bad cramp in both my legs and things beginning to spin and blur ever so slightly, I recovered and gave her the OK sign. Although everyone who blacks out free-diving describes the feeling as euphoric, I was glad not to experience it.